Marijuana Activists Gear Up for CA Fight in 2016

420 California (Credit: Joel Pollak / Breitbart News)
Joel Pollak / Breitbart News

Advocates for recreationally legal marijuana will attempt to turn the Golden State green in 2016.

While some pro-marijuana organizations have already begun the fundraising necessary to place an initiative on the 2016 ballot, polls increasingly indicate that Californians, and the rest of the nation, are ready for legal weed, reports the Orange County Register.

“It’s similar in a lot of ways” to Proposition 8, California’s controversial ballot measure prohibiting same-sex marriage, University of San Francisco political scientist Corey Cook told the Register. “It’s spreading across the county and younger voters are more likely to favor it. And you’re seeing moderate and libertarian Republicans changing their mind and supporting it.”

In 1996, California became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for medicinal use under Proposition 215. Since then, several ballot initiatives that would have fully legalized marijuana for recreational use have failed in the state, while four other states–Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon–have passed measures legalizing the drug for recreational purposes.

California’s most recent attempt, Proposition 19, was defeated by a slim, 53.5-47.5% margin in 2010.

“There were too many unanswered questions to give it wholehearted support,” No on 19 spokesman Roger Salazar told the L.A. Weekly at the time. “It just wanted to legalize use without a prescribed and controlled structure.”

Pro-pot activist organizations will look to change the formula in 2016. Specifically, the organizations will have to address the two critical problems that derailed Proposition 19; the inconsistency of allowing individual cities and counties to create their own permitting guidelines, and the inability of businesses to limit the hiring of prospective employees who test positive for marijuana.

“I do think that both these issues will be carefully considered for this next measure,” Orange County NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) director Kandice Hawes-Lopez told the Register.

For the movement to be successful in 2016, pro-legalization outfits will have to work with each other in a coordinated, concerted way, UC Berkeley sociology professor and Drug Policy Alliance rep Amanda Reiman added.

“The groups are going to have to set aside their desire for ownership for the larger goal,” Reiman told the paper.

The Register reports that several pro-marijuana organizations have already begun meeting to discuss the ballot measure’s prospective language and overall strategy, including the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project.

In November, the Marijuana Policy Project told the Associated Press it had already begun fundraising efforts for 2016.

Shortly after Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia passed their pro-pot ballot measures last month, Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann told the AP that the wins were especially meaningful in a “Republican wave” year.

“It was an extraordinary day for marijuana and criminal justice reform, and all the more remarkable on a night the Democrats were getting beaten up so bad,” Nadelmann said.

Despite polls that show Democrats are more likely to support legalization than Republicans, California governor Jerry Brown said he would adopt a wait-and-see approach in a March appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

“How many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?” Brown asked. “I’d really like those two states (Colorado and Washington) to show us how it’s going to work. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together.”

With momentum and money firmly behind the pro-legalization movement, opponents of the measure will have to come together and raise money quickly if they are to defeat it, former state senator Dick Ackerman told the Register. Although Proposition 19 failed by a razor-thin margin, proponents of the measure reportedly outspent opponents 12-1 in the battle.

“Marijuana has been around and people are getting used to it,” Ackerman told the paper. “Unless the business community and churches step up, there’s probably not going to be much money to fight it.”



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